Some days the words flow easily. Other days they don’t flow at all—even when we’re in the mood to write in our journal. (Please tell me I’m not alone on this.) It’s not that we’re afraid of writing. It’s just that sometimes we don’t know what to write about.
Those are the days we need a journal prompt. Journal prompts are simply topics or
questions we’d like to explore when we have the time. They may be ideas we’d like to tinker around with or issues we need to mull over more thoroughly. They may be quotes that inspire deep thinking or random words about which we write freely and furiously. They may be memories we’d like to recall from our past or plans we’d like to make for our future.
Where do journal prompts come from? Well, the best ones probably come from within. Just as we have days when we don’t know what to write, we also have days that we have more ideas than we know what to do with. As ideas for topics come to you, try jotting them down on the last page of your journal. That way, they are right there when you need them and you’ll never get caught without a topic.
As an alternative, you might write journal prompts individually on small strips of paper—much like those found in fortune cookies—and either draw one randomly as a challenge or sort through them until you find one you feel like pondering that day. I keep a few dozen of these in a small jar on my desk. You know, just in case.
You could devote a pocket-sized journal to writing prompts—one that you can easily carry with you to write down topics as they come to you. I have several of these. I take one on my morning walks. I tuck another in a bag when traveling or lunching on my own. I keep one next to the bed and not too far from the shower. I’ve even been known to take one out in the garden. These are the places where my mind wanders most freely—providing ample ideas to explore more fully in my journal.
Just about anything is fodder for a journal—observations, overheard conversations, life’s big questions, places you’d like to visit, people you admire, new techniques you’d like to try, what you just harvested from the garden, your grandmother’s words of wisdom, or your latest political theory. You can even find compelling journal prompts on twitter—tweets that pique your curiosity or make you stop and think. If writing really isn’t your thing, you can still keep a journal by jotting down short notes, making sketches or keeping lists. While you’re at it, why not keep a list of the lists you’d like to make, so that one day, when you think you don’t know what to write in your journal, you actually will.
Lee Anne White is an author, photographer and avid journal writer. She offers journal prompts at the end of each chapter in her latest book, Her Own Way.